SEC investigation

Flutter to pay $4M to settle US claims of bribery in PokerStars Russian payments

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PokerStars owner Flutter Entertainment will pay $4 million to settle U.S. allegations that the handling of payments to Russia-based consultants violated foreign bribery law. The Dublin-based firm has entered a settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over alleged violations by PokerStars’ previous owner, Toronto-based Stars Group, which Flutter bought in 2020.

The SEC, which confirmed the settlement Monday, said the Stars Group paid about $8.9 million to Russia-based consultants as it pushed for the legalization of poker in that country. The alleged payments were made between 2015 and 2020, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Under the settlement, Flutter neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s allegations. However, it stated it was pleased the matter had been concluded. “This is a legacy issue, related to a period prior to Flutter’s ownership of the Stars Group," said the firm.

“Following our acquisition of TSG, we made significant changes to implement a framework of controls in line with Flutter’s existing standards,” a spokesperson stated, as reported by the cited source.  

Some of the money the Stars Group allegedly paid out went to New Year’s gifts to Russian government officials and toward reimbursing a consultant’s payments to a Russian state agency, the SEC said. The company violated rules under U.S. foreign bribery law that require businesses to maintain adequate internal accounting controls. 

The SEC acknowledged Flutter’s cooperation efforts, noting the company had shared facts developed in its own internal investigation and encouraged parties outside SEC jurisdiction to provide evidence. Flutter also has enhanced its internal accounting controls and compliance, the SEC said.

Flutter acquired The Stars Group, operator of a number of brands such as PokerStars and Full Tilt, in May 2020. Flutter withdrew from Russia after the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

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